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UFC 224 card: Lyoto Machida vs Vitor Belfort full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Belfort vs Gastelum Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight old-timers Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort will battle this Saturday (May 12, 2018) at UFC 224 inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A trio of knockout losses that sandwiched a long layoff seemed to spell the end for Machida ... and UFC did him no favors by matching him up with an up-and-coming knockout artist last time out. However, Machida flipped the script and showed there’s still something left in the tank, getting back in the win column following a five round duel. Meanwhile, Belfort has generally looked deflated since Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) was banned, but he’s still managed to pick up the occasional win. Nevertheless, Belfort intends for this bout to be his retirement match, which seems a wise decision for the 41-year-old Brazilian.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:

Lyoto Machida
Record: 23-8
Key Wins: Eryk Anders (UFC Fight Night 125), Rashad Evans (UFC 98), Gegard Mousasi (UFC Fight Night 36), C.B. Dollaway (UFC Fight Night 58), Ryan Bader (UFC on FOX 4)
Key Losses: Chris Weidman (UFC 175), Derek Brunson (UFC Fight Night 119), Luke Rockhold (UFC on FOX 15), Yoel Romero (UFC Fight Night 70), Jon Jones (UFC 140)
Keys to Victory: Machida is the karate kid. An excellent counter striker with great evasive movement, “The Dragon” flustered foes for years by stabbing at them with outside kicks and then countering when they tried to force their way into the pocket.

There’s no reason to suggest it won’t work opposite Belfort.

This being a match up of Southpaws complicates things for both men a bit, but the real bottom line here is that Belfort probably doesn’t have the tools to catch Machida. The infamous Belfort blitz is always a threat, but that’s generally a straight line attack, unlikely to catch the ever-circling Machida. Plus, Belfort charges forward far less often at this stage of his career.

Belfort’s fast hands only matter if he’s within range.

Realistically, Machida just has to circle and kick, circle and kick, over and over. The more Machida limits the exchange of punches, the slimmer the chance that Belfort manages to clip him. Without hurting Machida at some point, Belfort will have a difficult time out-pointing his better conditioned and more active foe.


Vitor Belfort
Record: 26-13 (1)
Key Wins: Luke Rockhold (UFC on FX 8), Michael Bisping (UFC on FX 7), Anthony Johnson (UFC 142), Nate Marquardt (UFC 212)
Key Losses: Gegard Mousasi (UFC 204), Chris Weidman (UFC 187), Ronaldo Souza (UFC 198), Jon Jones (UFC 152)
Keys to Victory: Like his opponent, Belfort can accurately be described as a Southpaw counter puncher, but the two have different methods toward the same goal. As of late, Belfort stalks his opponent and digs hard left kicks, waiting for a moment to drop his left hand around the guard when his foe strikes back.

In this bout, there are two things Belfort can do to give himself a better chance at landing big. First and foremost, the Brazilian has to kick to cut off the cage. In particularly, the low kick works very well in Southpaw-Southpaw match ups, as checking the outside low kick is a big adjustment for the defending man. In addition, Belfort should be looking to counter the left hand. Machida has a bad habit of staying in the pocket after jumping into his cross, and that’s something other Southpaws have punished him for. Each time Machida steps in to land, Belfort should be looking to answer immediately.

Bottom Line: It’s a legends match.

Machida’s time of being a top contender is over, but he proved last time out that he can still compete with relevant Middleweights. This fight is another opportunity to add a win to his record — distancing himself from that ugly losing streak — and prove that Machida is still a Middleweight worth-watching.

A loss would be a major setback, and the retirement calls would return.

As for Belfort, he’s already in the process of answering those calls. It’s always nice to go out on a win, but that’s pretty much the sole consequence for Belfort. His career and legacy are already very established. He seems ready for retirement, which means he’ll make an excellent addition to Bellator’s roster in 2019.

At UFC 224, Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida will open the main card. Which fighter will have his hand raised?

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